Well-known composer and pianist Pieter de Villiers dies at 90

Well-known composer and pianist Pieter de Villiers dies at 90

20.05.2015  Well-known composer, pianist and music pedagogue, Pieter de Villiers, passed away in Stellenbosch on Monday 18 May. He was 90 years old.

De Villiers was born on June 19, 1924 in Klerksdorp. In 1942 he enrolled at the University of Pretoria to study medicine, but changed his course in 1943 to study a BA in Classical Languages. In 1946 he moved to Stellenbosch where he studied music under Professor Maria Fismer, Elise Lubbe and Walter Swanson. In 1948 he qualified as a music teacher.

After teaching piano for six years, he was appointed as a lecturer at the music department of the University of Potchefstroom in 1954. From 1963-1967 he lectured organ, piano and harpsichord at the University of Pretoria. In 1968 he accepted a professorship in music at the Potchefstroom University, where he worked until his retirement in 1984. In 1985 he moved back to Stellenbosch where he lived until his death.

As composer, De Villiers became very well-known for his settings of Afrikaans poems by Boerneef, specifically the songs “Die berggaans het ‘n veer laat val” en “Aandblom is ‘n wit blom”. In addition to the Sewe Boerneefliedjies (1960 /61), his first and most famous composition, he composed seven other songs cycles based on Boerneef texts, a song cycle of poems by DJ Opperman (including “Namaqualand”) and several choral works

De Villiers performed extensively as piano soloist as well as accompanist and collaborated with a number of big name South African vocalists such as Ceilia Wessels, Betsy de la Porte, Joyce Barker, Mimi Coertse, Sari Lamprecht, Hanli van Niekerk and Werner Nel. He also accompanied visiting international artists.

As choral conductor De Villiers worked with many choirs and was responsible for recordings of all the psalms and hymns in the first Afrikaans Hymn Book.

He is survived by his wife Eleanore, their daughters Anna, Hanlie and Eleanore and five children from his wife’s first marriage.

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